Soyuz 2 Carrying Glonass-M Navigation Satellite Narrowly Avoids Lightning Strike

Soyuz-2.1b narrowly misses being hit by lightning during early morning launch.
Image credit: Roscosmos

A Russian Soyuz 2.1b that launched from Plesetsk Cosmodrome earlier this morning narrowly avoided being hit by lightning as it thundered skyward. The rocket was carrying the 1,415-kilogram (3,119-pound) Glonass-M No. 58 navigation satellite which was successfully deployed into orbit following the near-miss.

The Soyuz 2.1b carrying the Glonass-M satellite was launched from Plesetsk Cosmodrome at 06:23 UTC (09:23 local time). Approximately 20 seconds after liftoff, a lightning bolt streaked past the rocket narrowly missing it and striking one of the four lightning rods that are positioned around the launch pad. The rocket continued to space unaffected and successfully deployed the Glonass-M No. 58 satellite into orbit 19,000 kilometres (11,800 miles) above Earth at an inclination of 64.8 degrees.

Although rare, it’s not unheard of for rockets to suffer lightning strikes following a launch. Most famously, Apollo 12 was struck by lightning twice during its ascent. The first strike at thirty-six seconds caused the service module to take all three of its fuel cells offline to avoid an overload. The second strike at 52 seconds knocked out the Saturn V’s “8-ball” attitude indicator and disrupted telemetry with Mission Control for a period. Despite the strikes, once in orbit, it was found that no serious or permanent damage had been done.

Glonass-M No. 58 navigation satellite is the latest addition to the Glonass satellite navigation system. The system is Russia answer to the United States’ GPS and Chinese BeiDou systems. The Glonass-M type satellite is the second generation of the Glonass satellites improving on the accuracy, power consumption and design life of their predecessors.

Andrew Parsonson is a space enthusiast and the founder of Rocket Rundown. He has worked as a journalist and blogger for various industries for over 5 years and has a passion for both fictional and real-life space travel. Currently, Andrew is the primary writer for Rocket Rundown as we look to expand our reach and credibility.